David and Judy Gaffney (above), long-time owner operator’s of Gaffney’s Grocery in Deputy have sold out to Deputy residents Bill and Phyllis Miller (below). The Millers said the iconic smalltown grocery will keep the same name and remain the same right down to the eat-in and carry-out food, deli and nine-member workforce.

(Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
David and Judy Gaffney (above), long-time owner operator’s of Gaffney’s Grocery in Deputy have sold out to Deputy residents Bill and Phyllis Miller (below). The Millers said the iconic smalltown grocery will keep the same name and remain the same right down to the eat-in and carry-out food, deli and nine-member workforce. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
David and Judy Gaffney of Deputy will be able to go to Gaffney's Grocery if they want, or not; sit for a while with the morning coffee group, or not. And they can travel, spend more time with his parents and old friends, and eat out. They are selling Gaffney's Grocery, which came down from his grandfather to his father and then to him.

The idea to sell wasn't his, David Gaffney said. A couple of months ago, an Indian investor went to Deputy and asked if he was interested in selling. He said if the investor could meet his price, he might be willing to sell. They talked about it and the investor seemed very interested.

The possible sale to a foreign owner was all the talk of Deputy.

"It stirred up quite a stir," he said.

But the investor said he had to return to India, and said he would be back in touch when he returned. Gaffney hasn't heard from him.

"I have pretty strong faith," Gaffney said. "I think God must have had something to do with it."

About a year ago, he was offered a good price to sell, but the deal didn't work out.

Then a few weeks ago, Bill Miller, a maintenance supervisor at the IKEC Clifty Creek power plant and a Deputy farmer, told his wife, Phyllis, that he was worried about her safety as she drove every day to and from Clarksville for her job with a state agency.

They should buy Gaffney's and she would run it, he said. David Gaffney has known Phyllis and Bill Miller all of their lives. He remembers Phyllis' mother coming into the old, narrow grocery carrying her baby girl, who was "just a little splat" on her shoulder.

The Gaffneys and the Millers will sign the final papers Monday. Phyllis Miller's last day at the state agency, where she worked almost 26 years, was Friday.

Phyllis Miller has been spending her spare time at Gaffney's the past two weeks, learning the business. But she won't have to go it alone. The Gaffneys' daughter-in-law, Kimberely Gaffney, who has worked at the store for about seven years, will be the store manager. All nine employees who wanted to stay will have jobs. David Gaffney said he will go in to help Miller if she needs him to.

Nothing about Gaffney's will change, Phyllis Miller said. Not the name, not the eat-in and carry-out deli foods, not the six-days-a-week hours, not the room that David Gaffney calls the "Deputy Museum."

The walls and shelves display decades of Deputy memorabilia - baseball and basketball uniform shirts, a letter jacket, photos of generations of the Gaffney and Nay families and friends, local artists' paintings, school class photo posters, and yearbooks from Deputy High School, which closed in 1967, two years after David Gaffney graduated.

"This belongs to Deputy, as far as I'm concerned," he said about the museum. "I like to think we've helped preserve Deputy. We have a little more than most towns, and I think the store has had something to do with that. ... This is kind of the glue that holds it together."

David Gaffney's grandparents were Hubert and Edna Nay, and his parents are Robert "Bob" and Betty Nay Gaffney of Madison's hilltop.

"My grandfather started the store in the '30s, during the time of the Depression," David Gaffney said. "My grandpa sustained. I've got cigar boxes back there with IOUs from those days."

His grandfather died suddenly from a heart attack in 1968 at the age of 63. David Gaffney was at Purdue University, and remained at the university after graduation, working in the business office on contracts administration for research.

"Dad was always here with Grandpa, from his beginning. ... Then it all fell on my dad to run it. He did it for two or three years. The signal came that if I wanted to, I could come." David Gaffney had worked there when he was in college, so it wasn't brand-new to him.

Judy and David Gaffney were high school sweethearts who married in 1966. They returned to Deputy for him to work at the store in 1970 or 1971. David Gaffney bought the store, which was named Nay's, from his parents in 1976 and renamed it Gaffney's.

At the time, Nay's was west of the present store in a long, narrow building that was about 100 feet by 25 feet. "The dining room (at Gaffney's) was a hardware store that Grandpa and Daddy built in the mid-'50s," David Gaffney said. "There used to be ramps to go up to the hardware store" from the grocery.

The hardware store sold more than tools and bolts. "They used to sell shoes and overalls" and many other items. A picture on the wall shows a blocky, red panel truck, "the huckster wagon" for carrying goods, and for his father to travel in to repair television sets. He also sold washers and dryers as part of the business.

David Gaffney built a new grocery onto the former hardware store, and the old grocery building was sold. It burned down, with flames that he and Judy could see from quite a distance as they drove toward Deputy. The lot is empty now, and came back to Gaffney ownership.

The Gaffneys closed the hardware store in 1995.

The exterior appearance stayed pretty much the same until Sept. 14, 2008, when a windstorm spawned by Hurricane Ike blew out the front windows and tore up the store front. The entire front was rebuilt.

"This store is a prosperous store," Gaffney said. "It's been through ups and downs, but it's doing well." The payroll is more than $100,000 a year, and sales are approaching $1 million a year, he said.

He attributes the success to its location on Main Street, the lack of competition, and "probably what I learned in school about business. ... I don't have to hire accountants. I do all that on my own."

There were ups and downs, with the 1980s being the downs. "Business was not very good," he said. "The things that saved us were videos, ice cream, the deli, selling pizzas. Serving food ready to eat."

It also helps that Gaffney's Grocery draws customers from Commiskey, Scott County, Paris Crossing all around Jefferson County. And then there's Hardy Lake's campground one mile away. "They bolster our business considerably," Gaffney said.

David and Judy Gaffney's two sons, Brian and Scott, worked at Gaffney's when they were growing up but weren't interested in being the fourth generation to own Gaffney's, David Gaffney said. "That's what I always hoped for, but it didn't work out that way."

The store has been pretty much David Gaffney's life.

"It's a real confining job," he said. "I've been pretty well locked-in for a number of years." Judy Gaffney was a cashier at the store, except she didn't work when their children were growing up.

"I never thought I would be able to sell it," Gaffney said.

Gaffney said now he finally will have time to eat breakfast cooked by Judy, and joked that she is "waitin' for me to entertain her." He said he probably will do some substitute teaching at Deputy Elementary School, as he did in the past.

Judy Gaffney didn't jump at selling the store as quickly as he did. "I had to convince her," he said. "She's fairly excited now.

"We're going to be able to do things together that we weren't able to do before," he said.